Jamie Whincup returned to the top of the V8 Supercar Series podium with victory in race one at Sandown, but it was the man in second place who really caught the attention, as Mark Winterbottom continued his relentless assault on the points table.
'Frosty' appears intent on backing up his recent success at Barbagallo by making a big play for the lead of the championship at this weekend's Midas 400, having clawed to within a whisker of the lead of a once apparently impregnable Garth Tander.
The Ford Performance Racing driver's second place in a race one Blue Oval 1-2-3 moved him to within four points of Tander, as the Toll HRT Holden man managed 'only' fifth on the road.
“If you can get second, grab 92 points and move from third to second in the championship, that's a pretty good day,” Winterbottom said ahead of the weekend's final two rounds on Monday, “I'm only a few points shy of Garth so, if we leave here leading the championship and finishing second for the event, we will be happy. Having said that, we are still going to try to win it and there's no reason at the moment why we can't.”
Almost overshadowed by Winterbottom's closing on Tander, Team Vodafone's Whincup led from lights to flag to set up a team 1-3 as Craig Lowndes sandwiched the FPR car. Both Vodafone team-mates are also making a play for the title, albeit slightly adrift of the top two.
Whincup could have easily still have been the championship leader had he not crashed in qualifying at the Hamilton 400 two rounds ago, but was reasonably happy with his performance on Sunday.
“I was just trying to get into a groove," he said, admitting that his concentration had wavered during the event, "I made a few little mistakes and was just thinking about other things."
Whincup had set the fastest time ever recorded by a touring car at Sandown with the first lap under 1min 10secs during qualifying earlier in the day, but revealed that the change of race date had had a lot to do with the achievement.
“[Sandown] is three or four months earlier this year, so the conditions are a lot better, and I just had an amazing race car,” he told BigPond Sport
, “The track was about four tenths quicker and we just made inroads with our car and got the ultimate lap with it.